Friday, June 10, 2005

Changing the world

To make the world a more sustainable, environmetally-sound place, the awareness process will only be compromised by rigid and dogmatic judgemental attitudes that alienate the majority. It is a gradual process that has to be inviting, not discriminating. The mainstream are maleable, but the flow is an organic, natural progression. Not to say that the flag-bearers are not important, for they are signposts of what's to come if nothing else, but righteousness is stifling to the momentum.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Fishing nets kill 1,000 marine mammals daily

Almost 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die daily in fishing nets and urgent changes are needed in trawling methods to save nine populations under immediate threat, conservation group WWF said on Thursday.

Its report -- which WWF says is the first assessment of the situation by leading marine scientists -- points to the accidental catching of cetacea in fishing gear as one of the gravest global threats to marine mammals.

"Almost 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die every day in nets and fishing gear. That's one every two minutes," said Dr Susan Lieberman, director of WWF's Global Species Programme.

"Some species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. Urgent action is needed," she said.

Air-breathing mammals, dolphins and other cetacea drown if they get trapped underwater by fishing gear -- becoming what the industry refers to as "bycatch."

The report says nine dolphin and porpoise populations -- 10 species in total -- need immediate action if they are to survive the threat of commercial fishing nets.

They include harbour porpoises in the Black Sea, the Atlantic humpback dolphins off the coast of West Africa, and Franciscana dolphins in South American waters.

The Irrawaddy dolphins of Southeast Asia, one of the rarest sea mammals on the planet, are also at risk.

"Most of the species on the list are threatened by the widespread use of one type of fishing gear -- gillnets," said WWF.

"These nets are difficult for dolphins and porpoises to spot visually or detect with their sonar, so they may become tangled in the netting or in the ropes attached to the nets," it said.


But the report says the populations of these threatened creatures could recover with changes to fishing gear combined with other conservation methods.

"Between 1993 and 2003, fisheries in the United States introduced changes, such as modifications of fishing gear, that reduced cetacean bycatch to one-third of its previous levels," WWF said.

"But so far, few of these successful measures have been transferred to other countries, and in much of the rest of the world, progress to reduce bycatch has been slow or nonexistent."

Innovations include attaching acoustic alarms to nets which annoy marine mammals -- a method that has reduced harbour porpoise deaths in the Gulf of Maine. WWF said its report would be submitted to the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee which will be meeting later this month in South Korea.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Avoiding Unethical Investments

There are several basic values that most people share:

* Avoid Causing Illness, Disease & Death
* Avoid Destroying or Damaging the Environment
* Avoid Treating Honest People with Disrespect

There are two simple steps that can help you avoid unethical investments based on the shared values above:

1. When judging a company/organization, focus primarily on its products and/or services. For example, no one would "ethically" invest in a cocaine cartel even if the leaders gave money to the poor & sick and had won "community service" awards for those donations. Investments in tobacco companies or Monsanto are similarly unethical because many of the products they sell cause illness, disease, and death throughout the world.

Any company or organization can take a small percentage of their profits and give it to worthy causes. Most companies can manage to win an award or two from some organization. These things are important, but they pale in comparison to the effects that the products/services have on the thousands or millions of customers. Some companies do beneficial things with their profits. But if they make these profits by selling products which cause illness/disease, environmental damage, or other suffering, they are clearly unethical investments.
Here are some resources that can help you recognize companies/organizations to avoid:

* Multinational Monitor
* Mother Jones Magazine

2. When gathing information about investment opportunities, ask for written details as to where the money is going. This is a simple, but very important step. People who have money invested in mutual funds or retirement funds sometimes discover that their these funds have been invested in companies that cause widespread harm to people or to the environment.

Abstinence is good for you! (a posting for nun57)

Program uses billboards to promote abstinence
Grant money funds UT Health Science Center's efforts to reduce teen sex

Six new billboards advocating abstinence until marriage will be unveiled this week in an effort to reduce the number of teen pregnancies in San Antonio.
The English and Spanish language billboards will be up for 12 weeks as part of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio's sex education program, which is funded by a grant from the Department of State Health Services.
Three different billboards, displaying pictures of young people will express the importance of parental influence on children, show the rate of HIV amongst teenagers and advocate saving sex for marriage, according to Kristen Plastino, program coordinator for the UTHSC.
"I think the billboard will get people talking, and that is a good thing," said Yvonne Gutierrez, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of San Antonio.
Plastino said she hopes the billboards will open the lines of communication between teens and their parents and discourage teen sexual activity.
"I think teens have other options besides becoming sexually active," Plastino said.

"I think it will help people to be confronted with the problem," said Sandy Bradford, director of Wise Choices for Youth, which works with the UTHSC on the program. "Most kids don't think about sex as ruining their lives."
The program is comprised of a curriculum given out to students in the sixth- to ninth-grades and parent and school staff education. The curriculum focuses on abstinence as the best prevention against pregnancy and STIs.
The program promotes abstinence because condoms are not very effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy or in guarding against a multitude of STIs, Bradford said.
"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from students that, honestly, they wish they'd heard this information before," Bradford said.
Some are skeptical, though, of abstinence-only programs that highlight the negatives of contraceptives. Although kids should know that abstinence is the best way to protect themselves, giving them information about contraception is especially important for those who have chosen to have sex, Gutierrez said.
"I worry that that is risky for our young people," said Janet Realini, medical director for Project WORTH, the San Antonio Health Department's sex education program. "Information about condoms and contraceptives does not encourage sexual activity by any matter."
Stopping teen pregnancy and sexual activity should be more a matter of paying attention to how teens view themselves than using scare tactics, Realini said.
"We still have a lot to learn about how to encourage young people to wait," Realini said. "The big thing is whether young people feel they have a bright future and a reason to wait to have sex and babies. That's a much bigger job."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Smog kills 800 a year in Toronto

'Potentially avoidable': Heat-related deaths will double by 2050: study

A study attributes 1,082 deaths a year in Montreal to the effects of extreme heat, cold and air pollution.

More than 800 people die each year in both Toronto and Montreal from the acute effects of exposure to smog, a report released yesterday says.

The study found 822 smog-related deaths annually in Toronto, 818 in Montreal, 368 in Ottawa and 258 in Windsor.

"We've got hundreds of deaths that can be attributed to air pollution and the combined effects of air pollution and extreme temperature. Those are deaths that are potentially avoidable," said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health.

Based on their findings, Toronto Public Health researchers projected heat-related mortalities will double in the four cities surveyed by 2050 and triple by 2080. They also determined that deaths related to smog will increase by 20% by 2050 and 25% by 2080.

The study of the four cities -- done in conjunction with Environment Canada -- traced the impact of extreme heat, cold and air pollution on premature mortality rates over a 46-year-period.

Researchers cross-referenced hour-by-hour mortality and weather data between 1954 and 2000 along with air pollution data between 1974 and 2000.

The results suggest extreme heat days have mortality rates twice as high as normal days.

Dr. McKeown said Toronto had another 120 deaths linked to heat and 105 connected to extreme cold.

The release of the report came the same day as Toronto's first heat alert for 2005 and following a five-day long smog advisory declared by the Ministry of the Environment.

John Filion, the Toronto Board of Health chairman, said the study demonstrates pollution is a "serious health risk."

"If we had some catastrophe in Toronto where we could identify it caused 800 people to die prematurely, the public would pay attention," Mr. Filion said. "But because we don't know who those 800 people are, people tend to say, 'We don't need to be very concerned.' "

Dr. Quentin Chiotti, air program co-ordinator for Pollution Probe, said the report represented a significant step in recognizing heat and pollution-related deaths are interrelated. Studies in the past have tended to focus on one area or the other, he said.

"This study is the next generation that is beginning to show it's a combination of the two," he said.

Despite the study's grim findings, the researchers said air quality is better now than it was 20 years ago, with Environment Canada data suggesting levels of carbon monoxide and other pollutants have dropped since 1985. But Dr. Chiotti cautioned that while air pollution has diminished, increasing global temperatures will likely present new health risks. Nearly 11,000 deaths occurred in Europe during a heat wave in 2003.

"This is not a trivial problem," Dr. Chiotti said.

Heat alerts are issued in Toronto when there is a 65% chance that weather conditions could result in premature deaths. When they occur, the city takes measures such as activating an information line operated by the Red Cross and alerting 1,100 community agencies to take extra precautions with vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and the homeless. Dr. McKeown urged the federal government to institute a national heat warning system similar to Toronto's program.

"We think there are avoidable deaths happening," Dr. McKeown said. "Clearly, the heat alert system is based on the monitoring of local weather, but we think it could be a national system."

Monday, June 06, 2005


Well, it was a very interesting and informative weekend.

Some highlights:

David Suzuki's speech was excellent. I was the first time I have seen him speak and the man has passion. He talked about the Nature Challenge ( - with enough signatures he will present it to the premiers and prime minister - and he is assured they too will take it. He was outraged how half of all of the living Nobel Prize winning scientists have signed a declaration saying that if drastic measures are not taken soon - the earth is going to reach an overpopulation problem that is beyond our control - and we will be out of resources to support ourselves. His outrage stemmed from how it received no press whatsoever. Which I saw as a case for strong communications (advertising and public relations) to get a message through to the public. David also went on an intense rant about economics - he sees the 'if you are not growing you are shinking' concept of modern economics as dangerously unsustainable, and putting us on a suicide course with disaster. There was a lot of ranting, but it was very entertaining ranting. It is true that he is a chicken little type, but it all just makes so much sense, he can't believe people aren't listening - and that fuels him on even more. He left on the message of salmon. Essentially, farmed salmon should be avoided at all costs - it has lice, it is grey and must be dyed red, it is practically inedible, the feeding of these fish destroys ecosystems and food supply in south america (where they get the fish for their food - as salmon are carnivoires) - and how even the farmed fish stocks are affecting the wild salmon. All in all, this is very bad news.

Other highlights were Raffi - who played some very nice songs.

There were some great bands - I particularly liked Ridley Bent with his dark country, I bought a cd.

The food was excellent as well - organic beef and chicken and salmon and salads and squash from edible planet. Good stuff. The settings were great too - out on the UBC farm and behind the Museum of Anthropology.

I went to talks on the modern media - and underground press, such as the Tyee., and confirmed many a theory that communications and media are ridiculously slanted - from the source (the editor of the tyee is a former Vancouver Sun editor).

Discussion forums on marketing your small sustainable business was filled with people like us. Communications professionals, advertising people, graphic designers, web designers and few people actually looking to market their small sustainable business.

There were some excellent speakers - Judy Wicks talked about her work with the White Dog Cafe, and how she was able to not only maintain a small business with strict sustainability standards - but also expand into spreading the prevalence of ethical pig farming to suit not only her, but a growing overall demand.

Jim Hightower should be running for office. He was a great speaker - funny, intelligent and interesting. With common sense, solid quips, and a texan drawl he explained the absurdity of established logistics in regards to supply chains, and how localized markets are the way to go.

Even David Suzuki admitted that he wished he hadn't spent all of the 80s and 90s saying Think Globally, Act Locally - and has corrected this to Think Locally, Act Locally.

All in all, I met a lot of environmental consultants, sustainability auditors, girls who do lots of yoga, Vancity representatives, innovative entrepreneurs, and plenty of people like ourselves.